RIGA/VILNIUS - Lithuania, Latvia, and another 10 European nations sent a letter to Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Commissioner for Trade, to voice support for the signing and provisional application of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), BNS learned from the Latvian Foreign Ministry. The foreign affairs and trade ministers are also urging the European Commission to continue work to reach a free trade deal with the United States.
The statement by 12 EU ministers is partially a reaction to requests by the French government and other critics for an end to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations which have been going on for three years.
The Baltic, Nordic, British, Czech, Italian, Irish, Spanish, and Portuguese ministers characterised the TTIP as "an opportunity to shape the rules of trade in the 21st century."
"We should fully seize it together with our American partners," they asserted in a letter to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Sept. 14, a copy of which has been obtained by BNS.
"The Commission has been working hard to take these negotiations forward, inform stakeholders, and consult with Member States. The TTIP negotiations have made progress, given the large scope and high level of ambition of the agreement. However, outstanding issues remain and we should focus our attention on finding solutions," they added.
The ministers reemphasised their "commitment and support given to the Commission in the negotiations."
"We look forward to the continuation of the TTIP negotiations with the US and to working closely with the Commission in the coming months," they said.
In their letter, the ministers backed the continuation of negotiations on the TTIP with the perspective that the development of a cutting-edge, ambitious, and comprehensive trade agreement would not only guarantee improved market conditions for the exports of EU goods and services, but also serve to fortify the transatlantic links. Latvia is partial to the provisional application and ratification of CETA, which is to be the most modern trade agreement so far negotiated by the EU.
Discussions on the agreement were finished at the end of 2013, and the signing is expected at the upcoming EU-Canada Summit on Oct. 27. Once the agreement is applied, EU businesses will benefit from the elimination of most customs duties and have access to the Canadian market of public services; there will be firmer rules for the protection of intellectual property and geographical indications of origin, and special provisions will cover support for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Talks concerning the TTIP have been added to the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade), an informal meeting of trade ministers to be held between Sept. 22 and 23 in Bratislava. Latvia has voiced resolute support for the continuation of the TTIP negotiations in order to reach agreements on the outstanding issues concerning, for example, public procurement, services, geographical indications, and agriculture. The United States is a key partner to Latvia and the EU; therefore, alongside political and security-related co-operation, trade links also require bolstering.
The TTIP is expected to be a new generation trade treaty which will handle provisions concerning sustainable development in subjects such as environment and labour standards, rules for supporting small and medium-sized companies, amended rules for investor-state dispute settlement, in addition to broad regulatory co-operation, including at an early stage of legislation. 14 rounds of talks have taken place since the TTIP negotiations began in June 2013.
Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius signed the letter on behalf of Lithuania, and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics signed on behalf of Latvia.